Witness – StoryCorps

“It’s hard all the time.”: A Decade of Agony Since Sandy Hook Shooting

On December 14, 2012, a shooter opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 children and six educators. Avielle was one of the children murdered that day. She was six years old at the time.

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Jeremy and Jennifer sat down for StoryCorps in 2017 to remember Avielle.

After Avielle’s death, Jeremy and Jennifer had two more children, Imogen and Owen. They also started The Avielle Foundation, a neuroscience non-profit that conducts brain research in order to understand the underpinnings of violence and how to build compassion.

Bottom photo: Jeremy and Jennifer with their daughter, Avielle, at her kindergarten graduation in 2012. Courtesy of Jeremy Richman.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help at 1-800-273-8255.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Originally aired on December 09, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition

50 Years After Watergate, The White House Staffer Who “Kept His Integrity Intact”

On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at  the Watergate building in Washington, D.C. One was a former employee of the CIA.

As the senate select committee began looking into President Richard Nixon’s involvement, a Republican staffer blew the lid off that investigation by revealing a treasure trove of evidence. 

A few years earlier, at Nixon’s request, Alexander Butterfield — a deputy assistant to the president and former Air Force Colonel — had overseen the installation of a voice activated taping system that secretly recorded all of Nixon’s conversations in the Oval Office and other key locations. Butterfield was told the elaborate recording system was for the purpose of gathering archival material for the Nixon Library, but no one who met with the president was made aware of the devices. Those recordings would eventually provide evidence of Nixon’s involvement in the attempted cover-up of the Watergate break in. The president resigned shortly after.  

Butterfield spoke with his friend Tom Johnson about what led to his testimony.

Top Photo: Alexander Butterfield testifying before the Senate Watergate Committee on July 16, 1973. By the Associated Press. 
Middle Photo: Alexander Butterfield and Tom Johnson at their StoryCorps interview in Austin, TX on April 27, 2016. By Jhaleh Akhavan for StoryCorps. 

The original interview took place through a partnership with the 2016 Vietnam War Summit, hosted by the LBJ Presidential Library and The University of Texas at Austin. This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired September 30, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

“The Rug Was Swept Out From Under Me”: A 9/11 Survivor From The Pentagon Shares Her Story

Tesia Williams was one of the first in her family to go to college.

Shortly after graduating, she got a job at the Pentagon, and was working as a public affairs specialist when on September 11, 2001, one of four hijacked planes crashed into the building, claiming the lives of 184 victims.

At StoryCorps, her teenage daughter, Mikayla Stephens, learned some new things about what Tesia went through and how the events of that day would eventually shape both of their lives.

Left image: Tesia Williams with daughters Mikayla, Harper and Arissa Stephens, and husband Jamel Stephens, in Washington D.C., in 2018. Right image: The family in 2008, shortly after Mikayla and Arissa arrived in Tesia’s care.

 

 

Top Photo: Mikayla Stephens and Tesia Williams at their StoryCorps interview in Washington, D.C. on August 27, 2021. By Clean Cuts Studios for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired Sept. 9, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

“Charlottesville Shouldn’t Be Discussed”: But This Local Refused to Forget

On August 12, 2017, hundreds of white nationalists converged on Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a Confederate monument. The “Unite the Right” rally became deadly when a car rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring more than a dozen others.

Charlottesville resident, 52-year-old Lisa Woolfork was in that crowd, and she was at the intersection where the car attack took place. The shock from that violent day remains with her. But as she told Kendall King-Sellars, who was also in the crowd that day, not everyone wants to talk about it.

Counter-protest to the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017. Courtesy of Lisa Woolfork.

Today, Lisa is an associate professor at the University of Virginia, and she now runs her own sewing group, “Black Women Stitch,” and podcast, “Stitch Please.”

Lisa and Kendall’s conversation is brought to you by One Small Step at the University of Virginia’s Karsh Institute of Democracy, with support from the Memory Project at UVA and WTJU.

Top Photo: Lisa Woolfork (Left) and Kendall King-Sellars (Right). Courtesy of Lisa Woolfork and Kendall King-Sellars.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired August 12, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Ten Years Later: Remembering Aurora Shooting Victim Alex Sullivan

On July 20, 2012, a gunman shot and killed 12 people in a packed movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. One of the victims was Alex Sullivan. He was celebrating his birthday that night — something he had done since he was a small child. Alex and a group of friends planned to see a midnight showing of the latest Batman film, just as he turned 27.

His parents, Tom and Terry Sullivan, came to StoryCorps five years after his murder, and then again near the 10th anniversary of his death, to remember Alex, and share how they honor him and other victims of gun violence in the country.

Terry Sullivan holds a photo of her son, Alex. 
Top Photo: Tom and Terry Sullivan at their StoryCorps interview in Centennial, CO on July 9, 2022. By Annie Russell for StoryCorps. 

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired July 15, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Remembering Dr. Tiller: 10 Years After His Murder, A Couple Reflects on His Abortion Care

On May 31, 2009, abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was murdered at his church in Wichita, Kansas. He was one of only a handful of doctors in the United States to perform late-term abortions.

Rabbi David Young and Cantor Natalie Young had gone to see Dr. Tiller in 2006. They’d been expecting their second son, Elijah, only to learn that he’d developed a brain condition that would make it impossible for him to survive on his own.

Ten years after Dr. Tiller’s death, Natalie and David sat down at StoryCorps to remember how he helped them through the darkest time in their lives.

Dr. George Tiller addresses invited members of the Kansas legislature, at his abortion clinic, Monday, Oct. 6, 1997, in Wichita, Kan. Tiller, who was shot in both arms by a protestor in 1993, and whose clinic was bombed in 1986, as well as the site of massive demonstrations in 1991, led clinic tours for the lawmakers and the press Monday, in an effort to enable the them to understand his practice. (AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, Rich Sugg)

Top photo: Natalie and David Young at their StoryCorps interview in May of 2019. By Kevin Oliver for StoryCorps.
Bottom photo: Dr. George Tiller speaking at his clinic in 1997. Credit: AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, Rich Sugg.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Originally aired Friday, June 24, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A Columbine Survivor On Going Home To Teach

Warning: the audio version of this story contains strong language.

Mandy Cooke was a sophomore at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999, when two students opened fire at the school, killing 13 people and themselves.

Mandy later became a teacher back at Columbine.

At StoryCorps in Denver, Mandy sat down with Paula Reed — her former teacher from Columbine — to talk about the two decades that followed, and the lasting impact of the shooting.

Originally broadcast May 27, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top photo: Paula Reed (L) and Mandy Cooke (R) at StoryCorps in Denver, CO. By Kevin Oliver for StoryCorps.

These Memories Shaped His Journey Into Hospice Work

Having built a career in hospice care, Hajime Issan Koyama, known simply as Issan, has many experiences with death, and with bringing comfort to people in their final moments. 

He made his way into a  caregiving role after he found himself at the epicenter of the 1980s AIDS epidemic in New York City, where he witnessed many of his friends and colleagues die. 

But the experiences that laid the foundation for his concept of death and dying go back to his childhood growing up in Japan, and his favorite grandmother.

He came to StoryCorps July of 2015 with his husband, Paul Boos, to share those memories. 

Paul Boos and Hajime Issan Koyama at their StoryCorps interview in New York City on July 17, 2015. By Mitra Bonshahi for StoryCorps.
Top Photo: Hajime Issan Koyama at his StoryCorps interview in New York City on July 17, 2015. By Mitra Bonshahi for StoryCorps.

Originally aired May 13, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Returning Home: Three Oneida Children Find a Final Resting Place

Growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Kirby Metoxen knew that many of his family members had been removed from their families in the Oneida Nation and sent to boarding schools. These schools were founded and run by both the United States Government and Christian churches. The purpose was forced assimilation: to strip Native American children of their language, dress, food and rituals. It is estimated that by 1926, around 83% of Native children were attending these schools. 

Pupils at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, circa 1900.

As an adult Kirby was on a road trip with friends to Pennsylvania from Wisconsin. While driving, he was recounting the personal history of his family’s experience at one of these schools in particular, the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania. On a whim, they decided to take a detour and visit the school.

The Grave of Ophelia Powless  at the Holy Apostles Cemetery in Oneida, WI. Courtesy of Rodger Patience.

Unbeknownst to Kirby, there were Oneida children buried in a cemetery on the school grounds, now a military base. This revelation led him on an unexpected journey to return those children to the Oneida Nation once and for all.

 

Top Photo: Rodger Patience and Kirby Metoxen at their StoryCorps interview in Green Bay, Wisconsin on January 27, 2022. By Carl Romey for StoryCorps. 

Originally aired March 18th, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

‘A Package Deal’: Two Brothers Face Mortality Together

David Carles and his little brother, Mark Carles, were best friends.

David and Mark Carles at a family wedding in 2002. Courtesy of Mark Carles.

Growing up on Staten Island, the two did everything together. But in 2018, at the age of 24, Mark’s life was upended by a rare form of liver cancer called fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma.

David Carles’ Tinder profile. Courtesy of David Carles.

A year after that diagnosis, the brothers sat down at StoryCorps in New York City to talk about the ways Mark’s illness had changed their lives.

Mark died on February 24th, 2022. He was 27. David came back to StoryCorps to remember him, just a few days after his death.  

Top photo: Mark Carles and David Carles at their StoryCorps interview in New York City on November 6th, 2019. By Mia Warren for StoryCorps.

Listen to David and Mark’s original 2019 conversation:

Originally aired November 22nd, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition. An edited version was rebroadcast on March 4, 2022 on the same program.